OTTO DIX (1891-1969)
OTTO DIX (1891-1969)
OTTO DIX (1891-1969)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DR JEROME AND MRS ELIZABETH LEVY
OTTO DIX (1891-1969)


OTTO DIX (1891-1969)
signed, dated and numbered 'DIX 23/302' (lower right); inscribed 'Liebespaar' (on the reverse)
gouache, watercolour, brush and India ink and coloured crayon on paper
25 3/8 x 19 5/8 in. (64.5 x 49.6 cm.)
Executed in 1923
Anonymous sale, Ketterer Kunst, Munich, 6 June 1994, lot 63.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owners.
B.S. Barton, Otto Dix and Die neue Sachlichkeit, 1918-1925, Ann Arbor, 1981, no. VI B 43, p. 144.
S. Pfäffle, Otto Dix, Werkverzeichnis der Aquarelle und Gouachen, Stuttgart, 1991, no. A 1923/65, p. 186 (illustrated).
Berlin, Kongresshalle, Otto Dix: Ölgemälde 1913-1963, Aquarelle, Das graphische Werk, October 1963, no. 107.
Milan, Galleria del Levante, Otto Dix - personale retrospettiva, May - June 1964, no. 21 (illustrated).
Hamburg, Bucerius Kunst Forums, Geisterbahn und Glanzrevue, Otto Dix. Aquarelle und Gouachen, June - September 2007, no. 45, p. 93 (illustrated).
New York, Neue Galerie, Otto Dix, March - August 2010, no. 91, p. 246 (illustrated p. 137); this exhibition later travelled to Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, September 2010 - January 2011.
Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Otto Dix - The Evil Eye, February - May 2017, p. 149 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Liverpool, Tate, June - October 2017.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

In this extraordinarily raw, vibrant and boldly-worked watercolour from 1923, Otto Dix renders the image of an enraptured but decrepit pair of aging lovers caught up in the full heat of passion. The painting is one of an epic series of watercolour paintings that Dix made throughout Germany’s ‘Inflation Years’ when hyper-inflation, in the wake of the First World War, had crippled the country and brought polite society to its knees. Dix, like George Grosz, was one of the great chroniclers of this age of glanz und elend (glitter and doom). He, like many artists, during this turbulent and impoverished period when the materials needed for oil painting were both difficult and expensive to source, had turned to watercolour as his main medium of production and was soon to become recognised as one of its leading masters.

In addition to this painting’s addressing of the familiar Weimar Republic themes of prostitution, capitalist decadence and moral corruption, Liebespaar (Lovers) is also a work that invokes one of the central and recurring themes of Dix’s work of these years: the triumph of the erotic over the misery of the age and its forces of degradation and decay. The endless and eternal cycle of the forces of Eros und Tod (Sex and Death) was something that Dix, as a devotee of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, saw as fundamental to all existence and an elementary truth that had been reinforced for him by his experiences as a soldier during the war.

As a veteran who had served throughout the conflict as a machine-gunner on both the Eastern and Western fronts, art, in the post-war era, Dix believed, needed to affirm these fundamental truths and to do so demanded a new ‘realist’ approach that showed things the way they really are. ‘You cannot paint indignation’, he once declared, ‘you have to be able to affirm – affirm the expressions of humanity that are there and always will be’. (Otto Dix, quoted in Fritz Löffler Otto Dix: Life and Work, New York, 1982, pp. 69-70). As a guide to this new, truthful or ‘Verist’ direction in his work Dix often rooted his depictions of contemporary Weimar life in the timeworn language of Old Masters painting; in particular, the work of the Old German masters, Matthias Grünewald, Hans Baldung Grien and Lucas Cranach, artists whose penchant for depicting the theme of unequal and aging lovers undoubtedly informs a picture such as Liebespaar.

What we need for the future is a fanatical and impassioned naturalism, a fervent, virile and unerring truthfulness, like that of Grünewald, Bosch and Breughel ...It is our task to create the great faces of our times.’ - Otto Dix

Indeed, as well as forming part of an extensive series of paintings of lovers in Dix’s oeuvre (that range from brutal depictions of wartime bordellos to colourful portrayals of adventurous sailors enjoying the pleasures of the harbour), Liebespaar is a work that also draws upon the familiar Old Master theme of Death and the Maiden. Seated with a notably younger, heavily made-up, but also malnourished and decrepit woman on his lap, the elderly male in this watercolour resembles nothing so much as the spectre of Death in a dinner jacket. His face is portrayed as little more than a skull that has become flushed dangerously red with sexual excitement.

In its deathly portrayal of a pair of decrepit and decaying lovers, this watercolour also closely anticipates two major oil paintings on this same theme that Dix was to make soon afterwards; pictures that also deliberately emulate earlier old master examples by Cranach and Baldung Grien. These were the large-scale, near life-size paintings, Altes Liebespaar (Old Lovers) of 1923 now in the Nationalgalerie, Berlin and Ungleiches Liebespaar (Unequal Lovers) of 1925 now in the Galerie der Stadt, Stuttgart.

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